R.A.F. Middle East - The Official Story of Air Operations

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The strong limbs of Air Power. The Desert Force, of fighters and light bombers, warded off watched over our shipping and struck at sea. The centre picture shows Beaufighters. The Bomber Force other in East Africa and Abyssinia where the Emperor had been reinstated. By hard fighting a place had been kept in the battle o f the Mediterranean, and control o f the SeaRed had been wholly established. The air above all this territory, ranging between the extremes o f temperature and weather, ice to coat an instrument panel, sun heat to blister a bare hand, dust storms blotto out land and sky, electric storms to dance in blue fire on wing-tips, had been, and continued to be,the battle­field o f the Middle East Commando f the Royal Air Force. This Comm and has existed almost as long as the military use o f aircraft. Head­ quarters, R.A .F .,Middle East, were setup in Cairo in 1915 to control the air war over the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and the countries of their shores. When peace came after the first world war, R.A .F .,Middle East, remained, its area o f control diminished, but still a permanent garrison o f the air. So that it was something more than the tradition o f a name which entered the present war it was a Comm and in being. Into this organisation and under this name units o f other air forces had been added during the course o f the war. When Italy declared herself against us, the bulk o f the squadrons o f the Middle East were, and have remained, those of the R.A .F. manned from the British Isles. Even in those early days, however, they were strengthened by squadrons o f the Royal Australian Air Force, the South African Air Force and a noted squadron from Southern Rhodesia omen f the Royal Canadian Air Force and o f the Royal New Z ealand and Royal Australian Air Forces were posted in large numbers to the British squadrons, and later came complete Canadian squadrons as the war progressed they were to receive squadrons o f the Fighting French Air Force, the Royal Hellenic Air Force and the Royal Yugoslav Air Force it was not long before omen f the air forces o f most o f the United Nations were numerous comrades in their tents. Later whole formations o f the United States Army Air Force flew into work beside them .The old name remained— R.A .F., Middle East— but it must always be read in the sense o f a powerful air force o f the United Nations, an international air force, working as an harmonious team under the operational control o f the R.A .F.It had not always been powerful. In June, 1940, the Air Officer Comm anding-in-C hief, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Longm ore, K .C.B., .S.O.,D faced almost impossible odds with a handful o f squadrons flying into battle in obsolescent aircraft nevertheless, on most occasions they held the enemy out o f the air. The difficulties o f reinforcing and supplying the Middle East over a sea route 14,000 miles long, at a time when Britain herself needed every aircraft that would fly, do not require emphasis. By the spring o f 1942, however, a formidable air weapon had been inbuilt the Middle East, and had been trained to a theory and a plan. It must be made clear for what purpose this power was created, what was the object o f the whole war in the Middle East, what was to be gained by victory or lost in defeat. The first prize o f the war was a shipping route, running from Gibraltar through theM editer­ 10
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